Archive for the ‘Graduate Courses’ Category

Grad Eng II: Hardy Hardly Heeds His Heart

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“Let each man exercise the art he knows.”

— Aristophanes, Wasps

My second semester of graduate school has come and gone.  It was a good one.  Lively, even.  One class was “Writers and Their Milieu: Thomas Hardy”.  Here are the books we had to read in order from early Hardy to later Hardy.  (All editions are Penguin Classics.)


Product Details Product Details
Selected Poems Under The Greenwood Tree
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The Return of the Native The Woodlanders
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Penguin Classics) Product Details
Tess of The D’Urbervilles Jude The Obscure
Product Details Caveat:
If you have to read Hardy for a class, make sure you get the teacher-recommended edition because Hardy made a lot of revisions to his novels between printings.
Far From The Madding Crowd  


My favorite thing out of the whole course was Hardy’s poetry.  He makes it look so easy, but you just know that means he was extra careful about every word.  It looks so, I want to say “comfortable”, in the sense that it seems to be what he preferred writing. The poems are witty, snide, sarcastic.  Their construction is so distinctive and even musical.  The themes were many of the same that you might find in the novels.  People with bad luck and and even worse relationships.  If you have to do Hardy, start with the poems.  They, at least, are genuinely enjoyable. 

Novels were not his favorite thing. He felt pressured personally and professionally to write them because they are easier to market, among other reasons.  Also, he wanted to prove to himself that he could master the art.  Even his weakest novel (according to many in the critic biz) Under The Greenwood Tree is quite palatable.  We didn’t do Mayor of Casterbridge.  That would have been too obvious.  Instead, we went with Woodlanders, which I liked a lot.  I liked it better than Tess and Jude.  I don’t need to be mowed down by the four horsemen of the literary apocalypse – death, depression, despair, and destitution to figure out what life is all about, that Divine Providence masquerades as bad luck, and self-determination only works if no one gets in your way.  I can figure that out by reading way, WAY more entertaining writers like Juvenal or Aristophanes or S. J. Perelman.  But, it was the done thing, and he did it well.   

I really loved the way Hardy described the scenery.  He didn’t just describe how things looked, but what the land meant to the people who have to live there.  How light and seasons affect the mood of the place.  If you’re ever looking for pictures painted with words, this is it!  His descriptions, more common in the early novels than in the later ones, are like looking at paintings of the English or German Romantic School – specifically, the Pre-Raphaelites or Caspar David Friedrich.  I’m sure there were critics out there who liked that sort of thing, but all you read about in the Forewords and Introductions is the bitching and moaning about scandals and how Hardy hated writing novels and how misogynistic he is towards women in his novels.  So typically academic.  There’s very little of praise about his considerable writing artistry. It’s usually an afterthought after the academicians get through tearing him a new one for victimizing women and being so depressing. 


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If you like English literature or writers who are not afraid to show the uncomfortable truths of their time, and have a healthy attention span, Hardy is really good. Don’t let the four horsemen of the literary apocalypse trample your appreciation of Hardy’s writing.

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Graduate English Passus 1

I’ve finally gone and done it… finally got set up in grad school.  It took ages for many reasons not relevant to this blog.  Nevertheless, here’s the gear I had to stock up on.


Medieval Lit: “The Dream Vision”

  • PIERS PLOWMAN.  William Langland/Norton Critical Ed.  (ISBN 9780393975598)
  • DREAM VISIONS AND OTHER POEMS/GEOFFREY CHAUCER.  Kathryn L. Lynch, ed.  Norton Critical Ed. (ISBN: 9780393925883)


    Other Readings:

    John Gower. Confessio Amantis

    The Dream of The Rood

    The Romance of The Rose

    Plato.  Myth of Er 

  • Somnium Scipionis

    American Lit:  Transnationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and Globalization

    Product Details A Small Place My Year of Meats
    Product Details Product Details The Names
    Pattern Recognition Dogeaters Product Details
    1. Dogeaters: A Play by Jessica Hagedorn  (The Phillipines)
    2. The Names.  Don DeLillo   (Greece, Mideast, India)
    3. A Small Place.  Jamaica Kincaid   (British West Indies)
    4. Caramelo.  Sandra Cisneros   (Mexico City)
    5. Pattern Recognition.  William Gibson
    6. My Year of Meats.  Ruth Ozeki
    7. Tropic of Orange.  Karen Tei Yamashita


    1. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity At Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. U Minnesota Press. 1996.
    2. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture. Routledge. 1994.
    3. Timothy Brennan, At Home in the World: Cosmopolitanism Now. Harvard U Press. 1997.
    4. Garrett Wallace Brown, The Cosmopolitanism Reader. Polity. 2011.
    5. Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins, eds. Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation. U Minnesota Press. 1998.
    6. Liam Connell and Nicky Marsh, eds. Literature and Globalization: A Reader. Routledge. 2011.
    7. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell. Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Princeton U Press.2007.
    8. Brian T. Edwards and Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, Globalizing American Studies. U Chicago Press. 2010.
    9. Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford U Press. 1991.
    10. David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford. 2007.
    11. David Harvey, Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom. Columbia U Press. 2009.
    12. Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi, eds. The Cultures of Globalization. Duke U Press. 1998.
    13. Paul Jay, Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies. Cornell U Press. 2010.
    14. Naomi Klein, No Logo. Picador. 2000.
    15. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Picador. 2008.
    16. Chandra Mohanty, Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Duke U Press. 2003.
    17. Bruce Robbins, Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress. NYU Press, 1999.
    18. Saskia Sassen, Globalization and Its Discontents. The New Press, 1998.
    19. John Tomlinson, Globalization and Culture. U Chicago Press, 1999.

    So…yeah. Okay.  No pressure, then.

    Another couple of books I picked up for a song…

    The lively image: 4 myths in literatureTHE LIVELY IMAGE:  4 MYTHS IN LITERATURE

    — I think I have a copy of this somewhere because when I saw it, it looked so familiar.  It’s probably in exile in the garage or something. So what do I do? I bought it.  Best table of contents ever!  Four sections:  “The Narcissus Myth”; “The Dionysus Myth”; “The Orpheus Myth”; and “The Christ Myth”.

    OPHELIA JOINED THE GROUP “MAIDENS WHO DON’T FLOAT”: CLASSIC LIT SIGNS ON TO Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to FacebookFACEBOOK.

    It’s mostly banalities, but the page for “Puck” of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is hilarious.  Still, I can see why it was marked down to three dollars — and yet, I feel sorta guilty because I wish I had written this book, or something like it.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow. 

    You don’t learn anything that wasn’t already common knowledge, but it’s good for a few laughs.

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